A journeyman actor, Melinda McGraw worked at nearly every level of the English-speaking thespian world, from the heights of British theater to her share of abortive primetime television series; along the way, putting her mark on some of the most buzz-worthy shows of her time. McGraw found her most memorable work playing recurring characters on the likes of Fox's sci-fi phenomenon, "The X-Files" (1993-2002), "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) and ABC's popular comic soap, "Desperate Housewives" (2004-12). She would also earn raves for her captivating performance as a seductive but take-no-prisoners show business manager and wife on AMC's multi-Emmy-winning drama, "Mad Men" (2007-15). Returning to regular work on the comedy series "Hank" (NBC, 2009) opposite Kelsey Grammer, she again proved her unlimited capacity to nimbly play a broad spectrum of roles and styles - from ethereal angel to scheming harpy; from sharp comedy to sobering drama.
She was born Melinda Leigh McGraw Oct. 25, 1968, in Nicosia, Cyprus to American parents. Her father was an official with the U.S. Agency of International Development and later a hotel executive. The family, which included two older sisters, spent time in Lebanon and Pakistan before returning to the U.S. in 1972 and establishing residence in Massachusetts - initially in Dover and later in Cambridge. Melinda attended the latter city's exclusive private school Buckingham Brown & Nichols. Gravitating to the performing arts from an early age, she was accepted into the Boston Children's Theatre, appearing onstage soon thereafter as a singing flower in the theater's 1975 production of "Thumbelina and the Ugly Duckling.
After graduating high school, she attended Vermont's Bennington College for two years before returning abroad after being accepted into the venerable Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. It was there that McGraw became a prolific stage actor, starting with the role of Mariah in a production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" that toured the U.K. before ending up in London's West End for an extended run. So began a succession of London productions for McGraw that included "Don Carlos," "The Duchess of Malfi," "El Cid," "The Foreigner," "Friends Like You," "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Mask of Moriarty" and "Women Beware" - as well as her first TV appearance in a 1988 guest spot on the BBC police drama, "Rockliffe's Babies" (1987-88). Also that year, she returned to the U.S. to star in a restaging of Clifford Odets' "The Big Knife" recorded for broadcast on PBS' "American Playhouse." She re-established residence in the States two years later, securing a succession of guest shots on American television as well as finding theater work in Los Angeles.
McGraw picked up her first recurring role on the ABC cop drama "The Commish" (1991-95), in which she played Detective Cyd Madison, appearing periodically during the show's 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. In 1994, she scored another recurring role on "The X-Files," playing Melissa Scully, sister of Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a role that would appear periodically through 1997 as Melissa became caught up in and fell prey to the larger conspiracy driving the series. McGraw had a supporting turn in Kevin Spacey's directorial debut, the indie crime feature "Albino Alligator" (1996), though her feature work would be infrequent in ensuing years, highlighted by roles opposite Leslie Nielsen in the thriller lampoon "Wrongfully Accused" (1998) and Eddie Murphy in "Nutty Professor II: Meet the Klumps" (2000).
In 1998, she would net her first regular cast job in the Fox suburban sitcom, "Living in Captivity," but the show lasted only a few episodes. She landed more one-off work, notably a turn as Larry's new passive-aggressive, on-the-make girlfriend on the groundbreaking HBO comedy, "The Larry Sanders Show," but her own entry, "Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)" (ABC, 2002), another in which she played a dimwitted network executive, also got the hook after only a few airings. McGraw's next sitcom outing, a cast part in the John Goodman/Jean Smart ensemble sitcom, "Center of the Universe" (CBS, 2004-05), would fare little better.
McGraw would settle into a steady diet of recurring roles, notably with arcs on "Desperate Housewives" in 2005, "The West Wing" in 2006, and in 2008, a five-episode turn on AMC's multiple-Emmy-winning period drama, "Mad Men." On the latter critical hit, she portrayed Bobbie Barrett, the slyly manipulative wife of an abrasive comic and shill, who seduces top ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to manipulate the strings of her husband's career. In 2009, she published an essay in the book Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All about her daughter Lucy Grace - by musician Steve Pierson, whom she had married in 2000 - and coping with trial of her premature birth. In the spring of 2009, she was cast on the new sitcom "Hank" (NBC, 2009), playing the wife of a once-wealthy businessman (Kelsey Grammer) who has fallen on hard times after the Wall Street implosion and, along with his family, must downgrade by returning to the small Virginia town they originated from.